It is the habit of men (who are cursed with memory and imagination) to romanticize over the past, or to idealize the future. That age in which we live is but a barren period set between sparks of brave accomplishment. It would be well, all men say, to have lived when Napoleon lived; and empires were upbuilded in a day; or to live in succeeding centuries, when man will know, and be master of himself.
This is the great age of the world. There have been more far-reaching events in history that this revelation of the nations. There have been stranger events in history than this revolution of more strange and far-reaching. There have been longer wars and more better wars; but never a war in which as many men have struggled and so many died.
It is not war alone that stirs the continents. It is the travail of the new order of life which is to supercede the past. It is the unrest of men with conditions which have endured too long. The old order is shaken; we live in a volcanic age.
Not in all her unnumbered millions of years of fiery and senescent life has the earth known such wastage of human life. From it must come some good, some incomprehensible good to the generations which are to succeed this struggling generation, otherwise there is no reason in existence. As the Reformation was the age of religious idol-shattering and the age of Revolution the age of political idol-shattering, so this, the unnamed but magnificent epoch, is the age of social idol-shattering. So, utterly will they be shattered that not all reaction many restore them; no more than it may restore the very dead.
It is better to be a young am in this generation than to have fought with Don Juan or with Godfrey in the Crusades. It is better to die, not knowing the culmination of these wars, yet playing a not ignoble part in them, than to have lived during a barren century of unepochal years.